Wow talking with Brad Feld it’s simply a…privilege!
In this interview Brad shares his vision about tons of interesting business topics and gives tips and advises to be successful in your business.
About Brad Feld:
Brad is one of the managing directors at Foundry Group, a venture capital firm that invests in early stage software / Internet companies throughout the United States. He is also the co-founder of TechStars, a mentor-driven accelerator, author of several books and blogs, and a marathon runner. Brad has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur since 1987.
Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures, a company that helped launch and operate software companies. Brad is also a co-founder of TechStars. Brad currently serves on the board of directors of BigDoor, Cheezburger,Fitbit, FullContact, Gnip, MakerBot, MobileDay, Modular Robotics, Oblong,Orbotix, SEOMoz, Standing Cloud, and Yesware for Foundry Group. Previously, Brad was an executive at AmeriData Technologies after it acquired Feld Technologies, a firm he founded in 1987 that specialized in custom software applications.
Hello, everyone. Marco Montemagno here, founder of Tech Alchemist, and today I’m so happy to have your great guest, and a person that I really appreciate a lot, even if it’s the first time that we meet here today in chat. It’s Brad Feld. Hi, Brad. Thanks for joining.
Brad Feld: Hey, Marco.
Marco: All right. If you don’t know who Brad Feld is, just go and Google it, because it’ll be too long. Basically, Brad, I would say the best five things in my mind that come up when I think about you. TechStars founder, Foundry Group co-founder, and author, several books. “Start a Business” I think is out right now, probably at the end of the month.
Brad: [inaudible 01:04], yes.
Marco: Also ‘Start-up Life’ is coming out in 2013, about life in the start-up world. Marathon runner, this is a personal thing, but I was really enjoying it. I think you have also on your website your marathon timing, right? The time you did?
You also wrote a post recently about Paul Ryan and marathon times and politicians do not match. This was also really cool. I like it. Because you have to know, and I’ll start with the questions, but I was really intrigued by TechStars and by your activity.
Once I was reading “Do More Faster,” which is the book you wrote with David Cohen, the other founder of TechStars. I discovered that there is a table tennis championship for TechStars, and I was a table tennis professional player, number 250 in the world. I thought, “Gosh, that’s amazing. These guys, they do something cool.” I was even more in love.
Brad: Some day you and David need to play, because he is by far the best…
Marco: The best player.
Brad: … table tennis player, yes.
Marco: The best player. That’s cool, that’s cool. Brad, I have several things that I want to talk with you today. Basically, when I thought about inviting you, I thought OK. We live, everyone who is doing business, start-ups or entrepreneurs, but also freelance and people who want to do stuff online, we have so many billions of things changing and new things and so on.
I thought, we need a set of rules, and who better than Brad Feld can help us to get a set of rules about several topics? I would like to talk about investing, promotion, entrepreneurships, are several topics that I really would like to join.
The first thing is, you are out with this book, “Start a Business,” and I thought that was amazing, the job that you did in Boulder. Which is not Silicon Valley. In Europe, we think of Silicon Valley, but when TechStars came out and Boulder started to be an important city for start-ups, everyone thought, “Where is Boulder?” It was something strange.
You created a kind of framework I think, a thesis in your last book. I would like to understand a little bit better, if you can elaborate on this. I think it’s interesting, an analystic view about business, and it’s not only your business but how to build an ecosystem. I would like to start from here.
Brad: Sure. I wrote the newest book which came out, it’s called “Start-up Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City.” It’s built on the premise that you can build a long term, sustainable, vibrant, entrepreneurial ecosystem anywhere in the world.
I have been a long term believer that pretty much any city can sustain start-up activity and start-up culture, that you don’t have to be in a place like Silicon Valley to be able to create something significant.
Throughout the United States there’s a bunch of cities that you identify with start-up activity. Boston, New York, Seattle. Boulder was a good example, because there was always a lot of start-up activity in Boulder, but it’s a relatively small place. It’s only 100,000 people.
I spent the last 15 years working with a bunch of other entrepreneurs here in Boulder, doing lots of start-up stuff. A couple of years ago I started reflecting on what had happened, and what had caused us to create something that’s so magical here in Boulder.
That led to what I’m calling the ‘Boulder thesis’, which is the core of the “Start-up Communities” book. I have a framework, and within the book we explore the framework in depth. The framework is very straightforward, it’s four specific principles. My view is if you want to create a long term, vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem, you have to do the following four principles.
The first is that the start-up community has to be led by entrepreneurs. There are lots of different people that contribute to the start-up community activity, but the leaders have to be entrepreneurs.
The second is that these entrepreneurs have to take a very long term view, at least 20 years. The idea is that you’re committing over a very long period of time to work on developing and growing your start-up community.
The third is that you have to be inclusive of anyone who wants to engage in the start-up community in any way. Start-up communities, to be successful long term, have to be organisms that grow and expand over time, not ones where people are playing a zero sum game. Anybody who wants to engage, whether they’re another entrepreneur or someone moving to town that wants to work for a start-up, or somebody from a large company or government that wants to engage and help the start-up community, you have to be inclusive of all of that.
Then the last is that you have to have a series of activities and events that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack. What I mean by that is if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, first time entrepreneur, multi-time entrepreneur, service provider like a lawyer, an accountant, a venture capitalist, investor, angel investor, university, there has to be stuff to cause all of those different participants in the entrepreneurial stack to be able to engage.
This is not cocktail parties and award ceremonies, but it’s real stuff where you’re doing work on a continual basis. Start-up weekend, accelerators like TechStars, monthly new tech meetups, weekly open coffee clubs, weeklong start-up weeks. These kinds of activities that are substantive, that allow people to work on this notion of start-ups together.
If you take those four principles and you look at the start-up communities that have really developed over time, over a long period of time and have sustained, they all have some combination of those four things front and center.
Marco: Do you think, I’ll just give you an example. I’ve been moderating, three days ago it was a huge event in Italy, TechCrunch Europe, that was in Italy. 1,300 people, really amazing. It was an ecosystem I would say. Mostly [inaudible 07:33] was an ecosystem. It wasn’t something impossible, only one year ago or a couple of years ago it was something impossible.
I would say that what you’re doing with TechStars or Y-Combinator has got a big impact all over the world. A lot of ecosystems start to grow. Do you think that this is something that will have a substantial impact on traditional business, or will be something just limited to the tech/web, digital space?
Brad: I think it’s having a profound impact on business in general. In the book I talk early on about the difference between hierarchies and networks. If you think about the rule that we operate in today, much of the industrial era from the early 1900s through the late 1900s into the early 2000s were driven off of hierarchical models.
Government runs off of a hierarchy, there’s a boss, the President or the Prime Minister. There’s a hierarchy below that person, and there’s a line of control. Military is a hierarchy. It’s very clear who’s in charge and who’s the boss and who’s the boss of the boss.
Marco: A control system.
Brad: Right. Think about a hierarchy. Most big business works in a hierarchy. You have a president, you have vice presidents, you have directors and on and on and on down the organization.
Start-up companies generally function in a network. Very early on, entrepreneurs tend to know each other across companies. A start-up community by definition is a network because you don’t have a single leader, there’s no president of the Boulder start-up community. There’s no vice president of membership and vice president of education and vice president of finance. There’s just a bunch of entrepreneurs doing stuff.
There’s this network that is intermingled. As a society, we’re getting very used to this idea of a network. Your interaction with me is an example of it. I don’t know you, you don’t really know me, but you have a lot of information about me, you reached out to me. I said, “Absolutely, be happy to spend a little bit of time with you.”
There is no gatekeeper. You didn’t have to apply to get me on your podcast, on the videocast. You didn’t have to ask permission. That dynamic I think is now really radically changing, this notion of hierarchy drifting into network.
I think that we’ve also conditioned ourselves as individuals to be very comfortable with the notion of a network. If you think about social networking, whether it be Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter, the linkage between people is something computers are really enabling in a different way. Crossing time and space, we’re in different countries, we’re in different time zones. Much, much easier.
That construct I think is changing the way we work as a society. On top of it, if you look at job growth and job creation, almost all the new job creation is coming from start-up companies. Most big, large companies are contracting. Some of them grow through merger and acquisition, but the real vector of growth is from start-up activity. I think that network philosophy and how that impacts people and companies is pervasive.
Marco: That’s very interesting. Last week I was watching this (inaudible 10:55 TED video about how it’s changing also for politicians and Github model applied to politicians, I think it’s very, very interesting.
I’ll ask a last question about this topic, and then I’ll go to investing. I was very interested, and obviously I still have to get the book. The interesting thing is also the timeframe. You say 20 years, and this is also very interesting for me.
I got an interview with Jeff Bezos a couple of years ago, and I remember that I was shocked when they said OK, we entered Italy, and Amazon opened on the Italian market. I said, “How can you compete with these leaders,” they have a really strong position and everything. He said, “Well, I will just wait 20 years. I have no problem in waiting.” I thought wow, that’s a long view, a long vision. Timeframe is so important.
Brad: I think it is, for a couple of reasons. One is most companies anyway take a long time to develop from scratch. Every now and then you hear of a company that has huge success in two or three years, but the vast majority of start-ups are ten, 15, 20 year journeys with lots of ups and downs.
On top of that, if you look at the normal rhythms of society, government runs in two to four year cycles, university runs in a one year cycle and big business runs in a quarterly cycle. Start-ups and start-up communities can’t focus on that short term cycle, because you’re playing something that’s a very long term game.
I would say it’s generational. You have to really commit for an entire generation, which is about 20 years from today, and actually assert that you really should be committing every year to another 20 years. If you look at Silicon Valley, it’s not a ten year old phenomenon. It’s a 50, 60, 70 year old phenomenon.
Building a start-up community and having it grow is something that has to survive the macroeconomic cycles, has to survive the cycles of government, has to survive the cycles of the one big company in town as they grow up and shrink, grow up and shrink.
Entrepreneurs don’t need to think about that shorter term cycle. They need to be playing a very long term game, like the one that Jeff Bezos described. It’s especially true in creating a durable and sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Marco: During this process obviously there are a lot of failures. By the way, for the people watching this video, if you haven’t seen Brad talk at TED at Boulder, I think it was 2010, a couple of years ago probably, that talk. It was an image I really love, was ‘Welcome to Fail,’ like ‘Welcome to the Town of Fail.’
You were talking about mastering failure and so on. Everyone talked about the importance of learning by failures, but actually you failed a lot during this process. What are your tips? OK, you fail, but it’s never great. The failing is not so good. In your experience, what can you do to learn and go on?
Brad: It sucks to fail, but that’s part of the experience. I encourage people to accept the reality that part of what happens in your life is lots of failure, and part of what happens in the entrepreneur’s journey is lots of failure.
The great entrepreneurs know how to learn from a moment of failure and extract from the failure new knowledge, new experience, new information. Pick themselves up and go forward. Even if you look at a successful business, from a start-up to great success, there’s a lot of failure along the way.
It’s not the case that you start here and end here and it’s a straight line. It’s a line that looks like this. As long as that line is sloping up over time, you’re OK.
I think the other thing I tell people is not to be embarrassed by failure. I’ve had lots of things that I failed about, I’m public about them. I learned from them. Sometimes I repeat the same mistake more than once, and sometimes it takes you a couple of times to get it. That’s part of the experience of trying new things.
If you’re ashamed of it, if you’re hesitant about it, if you hide it, you don’t really embrace the [inaudible 15:30] progress of what you’re trying to do. In the context of start-up communities we talk about it a lot. We encourage people to just try stuff. If it doesn’t work or if nobody shows up or if you do it and it’s not that interesting, stop. Didn’t work, try something else.
Don’t, ‘well, it didn’t quite work, but I think it’s really important to get it right so I’m going to fix it.’ It might be, but make sure you’re still committed to that idea. Because if you’re not and you’re just trying to struggle through it to try to get it to something successful, unless you believe it, don’t waste your time on it.
Marco: Another topic is obviously is investing, funding and the VC Board. For people who are not inside a start-up world, maybe traditional businesses used to go to the bank, ask for money, and they have to give back the money. For people who are not in a start-up business, just remember that the Venture Capitalist, an Angel Board is an explosive world.
I think Foundry Group just closed a $225 million funding. By the way, congrats, Brad. It’s very interesting. I think there’s also crowd funding, or I see Funders’ Club coming out from Y-Combinator. Different ways of getting funding for your business.
I’m trying to understand, Brad. Who do you invest on this moment? Who are you looking for? Who would you give your money too? What are your guidelines or tips to say, “OK, if I’m looking for funding, if I really need funding, probably these are the rules to follow” in your opinion?
Brad: Sure. Foundry Group, I had three partners. The four of us had a very specific lens that we looked through when we invest in companies. We are early stage software/Internet investors. We’re focused on companies within a set of themes of ours. If you go to foundrygroup.com/themes, you can see the themes.
If a company is outside of our themes, we don’t spend time with them. If it’s inside our themes, we go very, very deep with both the product and the people. Our determination is whether we want to be long term partners with people around the product or the technology that’s being created.
We also limit ourselves to only investing in companies in the U.S., and that’s a function of experience that I’ve had in the late 90s, where I made about half a dozen investments in Europe, and it was just really hard. The geography, time and space, culture, it was too difficult not being local.
I really felt like while we could invest all around the U.S., we were having a difficult time, or it would be difficult for us to be very good at investing in different geographies. The other, as I said, we’re early stage investors. If a company’s raised more than about $3 million, it’s probably too late for us, we’re not a good target to invest. We define this category of things pretty carefully.
What I encourage entrepreneurs to do is, don’t view venture capitalists as a single archetype. There’s lots of different types of venture capitalists, and what’s important to know is understand the strategy that the particular firm you’re approaching uses. If what you’re doing doesn’t match the strategy, don’t waste your time, because the chance of you getting financing from that group is extremely low.
Look for firms that do strategy and the type of things they invest in match what you’re doing. If you can get in their box of what they like to invest in, then you have an interesting conversation.
Marco: I also guess that it’s not only the money. If I was a U.S. company and I go attending TechStars, probably I’m looking for more than money, mentorship, networks and all this kind of stuff.
Brad: I separate clearly between Foundry Group and TechStars. I described what we look for at Foundry Group. At TechStars, we have 100 companies a year that go through different TechStars programs in the U.S. Boston, New York, Boulder, Seattle, and San Antonio. Then there’s a number of other accelerators like TechStars all around the world that are part of something called the Global Accelerator Network.
They’re not owned and operated by TechStars, but they’re affiliated and they share best practices. In the context of TechStars, those 100 or so companies a year that go through TechStars, we like to say that we’re focused on people, people, people, and then idea. The only reason we have idea in there is to emphasize how important the people are.
We’re interested in the idea. It’s not that any idea works, but we really care about the people in that context.
Marco: Everyone thinks if they have to start a business, I think the recurring problem that comes to me is “Oh, I have a great idea, but I don’t want to say my idea, I don’t want to tell my idea, otherwise someone will steal.” Everyone focuses on how important an idea. But today if you talk with investors or if you hear what the experts say, finally people are the most important asset and resource, I guess.
Marco: Innovation. I heard you talking about Eric Von Hippel, your professor at MIT once. You say that he was teaching to consider that innovation is created by users. I fell in love with this mantra, and I thought wow, yeah, that’s exactly the way to follow.
Can you help us to understand better for a business that has to innovate to survive, because to survive in this era where every three milliseconds something changes, you have to keep on innovating. What’s your advice? What can you do? Because you have a business that has got some kind of vision and resources so you can change everything every two seconds. Otherwise it’s difficult to run your business. How can you adapt in this kind of situation?
Brad: Eric Von Hippel was about 30 or 40 years ahead of his time, because his notion and the statement that he made that innovation comes from users was an idea he had in the 1970s that has evolved over the last 40 years.
It’s a really powerful construct, and if you think about innovation today, the vast majority of innovation does come from users. Constructs like open source software, or constructs like “The Lean Start-up” that Eric Reese [SP] popularized, is really a very clear sense of a feedback loop that comes from putting your idea and your innovation out early, getting people involved in using it and giving you feedback, and then incorporating that feedback directly into the next iteration of the product. Those iteration loops are very tight, very short duration.
I think it’s incredibly important. The best way to develop software is not to sit in a cave for a year and build a bunch of stuff and then spring it on the world, but instead constantly be putting stuff out there and getting feedback from the people who’re using it every day, which will help you understand better what you should be spending your time on.
I think Eric Reese does an amazing job in the book ‘Building a Start-up’ for helping create a framework for how to do that. There’s a whole discipline that’s now been created from that. But I think that construct is really what Eric was talking about in the 1970s. It wasn’t that there’s these big R&D labs where people are sitting, working on figuring out what the users might need.
Now, it’s interesting, there’s the counter-example which is, yes, but isn’t Apple successful because of the brilliance of one man, in this case Steve Jobs, who figured out what everybody wanted and that’s exactly what they got? I think there’s a lot of subtlety to it, because in fact the brilliance of it was him both thinking ahead of where everybody was but also synthesizing as a user what was needed.
If you think about the notion of user driven innovation, an individual within a company can be the user. It’s not just the case that you have to have somebody outside that’s doing it. There’s a lot of subtlety to it, but it’s a very powerful construct when you step back and say, “OK. How can I get input into what I’m doing to make it more valuable? How can I observe what people are doing with my product so I understand what’s working and what’s not working?”
Marco: Right. Every Eric Reese, Steve Blank, there is a huge movement I would say now to divulge all these concepts very, very . . .
Brad: The linkage between Eric Reese and Steve Blank is that Eric was Steve’s student. Steve came out with this notion of customer-driven development, and Eric evolved it, put it to practice and evolved it and then codified it. The two of them continue to work going forward in terms of making this construct clearer and clearer, both in a formal sense as well as a practitioner sense.
Marco: Excellent. Promotion. Just five minutes more, Brad. I know that you’re super-busy and then I’ll let you go. Promotion. I was interested and intrigued in this topic, because I really don’t like traditional marketing, and I think a lot of businesses still, in 2012, they keep on doing traditional press release and marketing, the old fashioned.
I heard you talking about different kinds of marketing and delighting your users. I loved also this phrase. I would like you to give us also maybe some examples of companies. You invest in so many companies, so many start- ups, so maybe you could give us some example of marketing going the right way without sucking at it.
Brad: Yeah. I think a great example is also a company called GNIP. The CEO, Chris Moody, wrote a guest post on feld.com a while ago about thought leadership as the essential way to do marketing. I thought it was really right on the money, which is this notion, and it was very insightful, because Chris played it back to me as the way that I was essentially marketing a lot of the things that I care about.
He was very much right, which is that instead of creating a message and trying to shove that message down people’s throats, or creating some, thing, and then promoting, promoting, promoting, the better thing to do is just lead with progressive thinking. Lead with your ideas. Be articulate about what you’re doing. Stay on those. Actually do what the ideas are and link them together.
If you think about “Start-up Communities” and the “Boulder thesis”, this is cut out of my experience, but it’s very easily applicable. If you look at GNIP as a company, they’re very, very clear about what they’re doing as a business, and they’re constantly pushing the edge intellectually about what’s going on with real time social data and how companies can use and work with it.
They’re not promoting a bunch of stuff that doesn’t exist. In fact, they have a whole bunch of products that they’re not even promoting, because what they’re trying to do is make sure that the potential customer universe understands the importance of what they do. The importance, the relevance of different aspects of the kinds of things GNIP can enable.
They spend a lot of time on thought leadership. Big Boulder, which was a conference GNIP had, where basically they brought a bunch of their customers and a bunch of their partners to Boulder, was an unbelievable experience. Because instead of it being a trade show for GNIP’s products, it was a conversation over 48 hours that engaged about 200 people that were working hard at this problem.
I think that kind of activity is so much more valuable, and frankly as humans it’s so much more stimulating. There’s only so much buy this, do that, love this, care about that that any of us can take. When it’s a chance to actually engage in real thoughts it’s pretty fun.
Marco: It’s cool. I think organizing an event is a cool way of becoming authoritative in your topic. As you were speaking I was thinking about Le Web [SP], Lloyd Lemur [SP]. I know he sold Seismic but in [India] he organized the largest event in Europe. In this way he created a great network and he was building up from there.
Brad: That’s another great example. He provides incredible thought leadership, he stimulates the community to come together, and then he facilitates additional discussion that drives thought leadership. Rather than “Hi, look at me, I have a trade show for start-ups in Europe, come.” OK, whatever. Maybe that would be interesting, but it’s so much more interesting to be with a bunch of compelling people that you’re spending your time with.
Marco: Absolutely. Another example is Rand Fishkin. I think you invested in SEOmoz. Rand is a good friend of mine, he’s also been in Italy. They are really a strong community. I saw they’re organizing this Moz conference. Events can be good, and try to apply a different approach.
Brad: I think that’s another great example. Rand and SEOmoz are intermingled. Rand spends an enormous amount of time running around helping people understand what it is that SEOmoz can do, but not to sell you the product, but to help you be much more effective at what you’re doing in the context of your own web marketing and web development.
Then of course SEOmoz is a tool that you can use for that. But the Moz community is incredible in terms of information and connectivity. That’s another really good example of an entrepreneur who’s just internalized.
Marco: Yes. Also this Whiteboard Friday where they explain every Friday, they teach, so they do a lot of education. Excellent.
How about you, Brad? You have a huge following on Twitter, for instance. You have to also promote your books and so on. You have so many things to do. I saw the list of social media that you are on, tons. How do you handle all this? What kind of advice can you give to people or businesses who have to handle their online identity today? Every two seconds a new social network appears.
Brad: I’ve been playing around with it since the mid-2000s, 2004, 2005, when I started blogging. I can’t remember the exact date, but it was in the end of 2004, beginning of 2005 timeframe.
I have always viewed this as just living what I’m using. I started doing it because I’m investing in these technologies, and I didn’t believe I could be a credible investor in these technologies unless I was actively using them. I tend to use them well ahead of when we invest in the companies, and I’m very immersed in the companies of which the technology we use.
For me it’s not a concentrated effort, like I need to go manage my social media presence. I just do what I do. I do it in a very open way. I integrated all of these activities into the work.
My job’s very simple. Our investors give us money, and our job is to give them back a lot more money.
Marco: That sounds very simple. Very simple.
Brad: It’s very simple, so as long as the things I’m doing are adding to that, the potential of us generating economic returns for our investors, it’s a good use of time. Part of that is understanding the technology, engaging in technology. Some of that is promoting the kinds of stuff we do and the companies we do.
I can do it in this way of thought leadership that provides authenticity, rather than say, “Hey, buy my thing.” I’m sure I default into ‘buy my thing’ sometimes. I’m not by any means perfect in how I do it, but I try to weave it all together so people see how it can actually be used in the context of your life and your arc as a business or an entrepreneur, rather than just pumping out messages all the time.
Marco: Right. Last question, Brad. Three tools that you would kindly recommend to everyone who has to do some kind of business online. You say, “Gosh, you need to use at least these three tools because they are fundamental. They are mandatory to succeed in your business.”
Brad: I would say, when I think about the tools, I would break it into categories. One category is I’ve worked extremely hard to tune how I interact with messaging, namely email. I’ve always wanted to be a rapid responder and a complete responder. I use Gmail. I use a product called Yesware [SP] that we are investors in, that’s a Gmail plugin.
Marco: Tell me again the name?
Brad: Yesware. Yesware.com is the site. It does a bunch of things, but really, between Gmail and Yesware my ability to automate and manage my email is pretty dramatic. I’d say that’s one category.
A company that I’m particularly excited about that’s starting to grow very quickly is a company called Mobile Day. I do a lot of conference calls, I travel constantly, so I use my cell phone almost all the time for this stuff. If you’ve ever done a conference call on a cell phone, you have to dial in a bunch of numbers and code until your head explodes. You’re driving down the road, and you’re trying to look up the number. It just sucks.
What Mobile Day has done is it’s an app that’s a one click into any conference call. You literally just use your existing conference call infrastructure, and Mobile Day, whether you’re the moderator or somebody else is the moderator, it doesn’t matter what the conference call service is. It replaces the calendar for all the conference call activity.
That’s one that’s become indispensable to me of late. It’s another company that we’re investors in.
Then I’d say I’ve always been very heavy around WordPress and WordPress related stuff for content creation. What I’ve come to is, I think there’s a couple of different approaches to it, but figuring out a single approach and then setting up your infrastructure so there’s no barrier to you creating content I think is very important.
In my case I’ve done it with WordPress. If you go to any of the sites you see a bunch of similar stuff, whether you’re on Ask the VC or feld.com or Foundry Group or Start-up Rev. Now with Start-up Revolution, which is a new site, startuprev.com, around the books, you’re starting to see some things. We have what we’re calling a “Hub”, which is from a company called Social Engine, that if it works we’ll roll it out to the other sites.
Some of it is experimenting constantly, but within a framework that’s not changing. In our case the framework that we chose was WordPress. Those would be the three approaches.
Marco: Right. I really have to let you go. When you were talking, I have so many things to ask you, Brad. I would stay here five hours, but OK, it will be next time. You’re also investing in 3D printing that I’m very curious about. I saw the price is about $2,000 or something like that, so it’s not for consumers, but it’s already a good price. Do you think 3D printing will be something that absolutely will spread? Of course you think, but why?
Brad: I think 3D printers are very analogous to laser printers in the 1980s. In 1984, if you bought a laser printer, you paid $2,000, $3,000 for a desktop laser printer. I actually had one in 1994, one of the early HP Laserjets.
If you look at the evolution of that, yes, now you can buy for $200.00 a printer that’s a hundred times better than that one that I could buy 20 years ago, or almost 30 years ago now, for $3,000. 3D printer’s on the same kind of curve, but it’s going to accelerate much faster.
When I got a laser printer, people said to me, “Why do you need a laser printer?” Four years later, end of the 1980s, once desktop publishing had started to become ubiquitous, everybody needed a laser printer. I think we’re in that same kind of zone with 3D printing, which is there will be a couple of software applications that become the “Oh, everybody has to have this now.” I think we’re very close to it, but we’re within that narrow time band.
Marco: I think that will happen. Right. Well, thank you so much.
Brad: Marco, my pleasure, this was fun. Holler anytime.
Marco: Absolutely. Check “Start-up Communities” and “Start-up Life” in January 2013, I think it’s coming out, the book.
Brad: “Start-up Life” will be out in January, yes.
Marco: All right. Thank you so much.